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From capex savings to agility, the virtualized environment evolves

VMware User Group President Mariano Maluf discusses the disruptive power of a fully virtualized environment and why that's a good thing for CIOs.

To open the 10th annual VMworld conference in San Francisco, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger made two major product announcements -- NSX network virtualization platform and virtual storage product vSAN. Both are seen as big steps forward to realizing a stem-to-stern virtualized environment. Also announced at the conference were updated versions of vSphere and vCloud.

Mariano Maluf Mariano Maluf

What do these announcements and the current state of virtualization mean for CIOs, and what effect does extensive virtualization have on innovation?

SearchCIO sat down with Mariano Maluf, president of the 80,000-member VMware User Group (VMUG) and cloud ecosystem architecture lead at Coca-Cola Co. in Atlanta, to get his view. In the first part of this two-part Q&A, Maluf talks about the takeaways for CIOS. In the second part, he discusses virtualization and risk, and the effects of virtualization on innovation.

From your perspective, as president of VMUG, what was your response to these new product announcements?

Mariano Maluf: VMUG is a mix of all sorts of companies, verticals and industries, and there's a multitude of problems to solve, and what we're seeing is VMware is aligning better and better every year with those particular needs and the trends that are intersecting -- cloud, mobility, big data. So the announcements were essentially indicating a fully virtualized environment. Everything needs to be virtualized to really gain the efficiencies of the underlying infrastructure; then we need to embed management to gain more and more flexibility on the automation side, and then finally there's more interest on leveraging public clouds, which is why VMware is getting into the hybrid cloud model the way they are.

This new environment demands that the same disruption that was brought to the compute layer expands to storage and network so that you can pervasively manage the whole infrastructure as a virtual element.

Mariano Maluf,
president, VMware User Group

What are the takeaways for CIOs?

Maluf: If you look at the last three or four years, five years maybe, the overall complexity for CIOs was around, 'How do I maximize my investment on hardware infrastructure?' Virtualization was a great fit, a very direct line to gain those benefits, mostly from the capex [capital expenditure] standpoint: I'm going to maximize the use of a resource that today I'm realizing between maybe 10% or 15%, and I'm going to take it to 80%. CFOs [chief financial officers]were very happy with the CIOs who embarked on that journey early because they could gain more of those efficiencies. But for the most part, the applications in that era were the traditional enterprise back-end workloads.

Today we have a much more complex world and the demands on IT to be more agile, the velocity on response and time to value, are just incredible and unprecedented. That's why I think VMware's position that we have to virtualize beyond the compute element of infrastructure was spot-on; CIOs want to build on their success. Mostly the CIOs that have been leveraging virtualization for the past few years are uniquely positioned to build on that win and gain further agility with things like software virtualization and storage and network.

I think NSX has the potential to truly be a game-changer in the industry. The trick there will be how we get the alignment needed for NSX to be really successful in IT environments. Virtualizing the compute layer is complex, but today it's commonplace; it's by default the way most people deploy infrastructure to support applications. But for the most part, the elements of storage and networking have stayed the same; they haven't seen radical changes. I think this new environment demands that the same disruption that was brought to the compute layer expands to storage and network, so that you can pervasively manage the whole infrastructure as a virtual element. And I think we'll see more of those things coming out from ecosystem partners as well as from VMware.

So are these new offerings things that members of VMUG have been clamoring for; is a fully virtualized environment a common goal?

Maluf: I see two main things here. The first is the progression of the known. What I mean is vSphere is a known element; it's been known for a long time and people want more out of it. So if it supports X number of CPUs, now I want more. If it supports X number of terabytes, I want more. If fault tolerance supports one vCPU, I want more. I think the semantics used were: 'It's not a revolution, it's a radical evolution.' So you can see the natural progression as a natural evolution. So that's one element I think will resonate very well with our community.

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The other group of announcements is more disruptive; they're the incremental step in progress. You have this incremental step like NSX and storage virtualization, as well and the overall concept of, 'Now that we're virtualizing all these layers, let's apply a management component across the stack to be able to automate it all.' And this software-defined data center vision that VMware has, [other industry players call it something else] is essentially: 'Can we virtualize all the layers of infrastructure to gain increased agility?'

And so I think those announcements will resonate well; some people will take a more cautious approach to adoption, it's just natural. Some people are in a wait-and-see mode, waiting for the technology to mature one or two years when there's that mainstream to jump on. Others are more aggressive. Within our community we see the trendsetters, the people who are early adopters, some of the companies you saw during the announcements [including GE, eBay and Citi] -- those were early adopters of something that is really disruptive. I think our community will look up to those examples and say well if they did it, how can apply those same technologies and solutions in my environment and be successful?

In the second part of this Q&A, Maluf discusses virtualization and risk and the effects of virtualization on innovation.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.

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